In the updated Suzan-Lori Parks’ play, Fucking A, the themes and character names from Nathanial Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter make a return engagement in a bitter and dystopian future. Christine Lahti, embattled and angry, does a remarkable turn bring Hester Smith to life in Fucking A.
|Brandon Victor Dixon and Christine Lahti (photo by Joan Marcus)|
Hester and her son once worked for a rich family, before Hester was branded with an A - for Abortionist. Hester’s son illegally ate some of the family’s food, and was turned in to the authorities by the rich family's young daughter. Hester's son went to prison, a common story in this time and place, and Hester was given the option of forgetting about him or becoming an abortionist to try to work and pay off his debt.
Hester works hard, saves her money and, with help from Canary Mary (a terrific Joaquina Kulukango) raises the funds to try and see her son. The fees to visit him, much less get him released from jail, keep increasing as he commits more infractions behind bars.
Meanwhile Canary Mary is carrying on an affair with the Mayor, whose wife cannot bear a child. Marc Kudisch and Elizabeth Stanley play the Mayor and his wife. And while the Mayor’s wife cannot conceive, the rest of the town’s people conceive too often, providing Hester with an endless stream of clients. Those clients, like Mary and Hester, speak a female centric “talk” language when keeping comments from prying male ears; or even when saying things out loud that are too wrenching to say in English.
Hester’s son, now called only Monster, escapes prison and comes back to the town; trying to make some connection, but falling back into crime. Brandon Victor Dixon is magnetic and haunting as Monster, a young man twisted into a caricature of himself by the world around him. The “talk”, the cast system, the reduction of minor criminals to monsters, and the public use of AND shaming of an Abortionist bring a tone of political familiarity and dread. Echoes of our current moral situation are impossible to miss. And the system makes everyone a loser.
Fucking A is an updated The Scarlet Letter, so things do not end well, but the twisted result honors Nathanial Hawthorne’s work. Director Jo Bonney gets great performances from the cast, and the pacing of this piece works beautifully.
Fucking A | Playwright: Suzan-Lori Parks | Director: Jo Bonney | Cast: J. Cameron Barnett, Brandon Victor Dixon, Ben Horner, Joaquina Kalukango, Marc Kudish, Christine Lahti, Ruibo Qian, Elizabeth Stanley, Raphael Nash Thompson | website